Israel quashes PA bid to single it out at Asian forum

The forum, of what is now 27 member states including the PA, puts Israel at the same table with countries with which it has no relations such as Iran and Pakistan.

 Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas at the 2022 CICA conference.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas at the 2022 CICA conference.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Israel rebuffed a PA bid to include language on the conflict between them in the Astana declaration issued Thursday during the sixth summit of a major regional Asian forum in Kazakhstan, according to Foreign Ministry Deputy Director-General Simona Halperin.

She credited Israel’s diplomatic achievement to the “skillful management of the negotiations by the Kazakh chair of the proceeding to produce a consensual document for release at the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) two-day summit in Astana, which has occurred mostly on a four-year basis since 2002.

The forum, of what is now 27 member states including the PA, puts Israel at the same table with countries with which it has no relations such as Iran and Pakistan. Russia, Turkey and China are also members.

The last three summit declarations delved into regional issues and included language both on the conflict – with the fifth summit calling for two states on the pre-1967 lines – and for the preservation of the status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites.

Remaining neutral

 Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 2022 CICA conference.  (credit: REUTERS) Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 2022 CICA conference. (credit: REUTERS)

This year, CICA produced a neutral document that sidestepped regional conflicts, including between Israel and the Palestinians, and had the consensus of the entire forum.

Issues that lacked consensus were included in a separate document explaining that these issues were raised, but lacked consensus.

The PA, along with countries such as Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Pakistan, Qatar, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, called again in that document for two states at the pre-1967 lines, a proposal Israel has consistently rejected. They said they “stood firm” against any unilateral steps to change the status quo “of the holy city of Jerusalem.”

There was also a call by a number of countries for a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. This is language typically aimed at Israel, which is presumed to have nuclear weapons, even though it has never declared itself to be a nuclear state.

What is critical here, Halperin said, is these calls were excluded from the overall consensus document. Negotiations for a neutral text took months and were led by Israel’s special envoy for CICA Dan Shaham.

Those talks went down to the wire, she said, with discussions held until 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, which were then resumed again at noon, less than a day before the declaration’s publication.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who addressed the forum in the morning, issued a harsh speech against Israel and threatened to cut PA ties with the Jewish state, according to an English translation of his words that appeared on the Palestinian news agency WAFA.

In her public speech to the forum on Thursday, Halperin said there were “attempts and maneuvers by some member states to import controversial political issues with a clear aim to single Israel out.

“We and other member states expressed our clear opposition to those attempts, and we shall continue to do so.

“We call upon all member states to respect the good spirit of CICA, and to avoid a discriminating and biased politicization of this important forum.

“CICA was created to foster cooperation and confidence building, for broader security and stability,” Halperin said.

Cooperation over conflict

She later told The Jerusalem Post that this kind of cooperation and civility defines CICA.

There are countries there despite conflicts between them – such as Pakistan and India – but once the representatives sit at the table the focus is on finding what unites the forum rather than what divides it.

Representatives from all the member states also pose together for a group photo.

“Israel is represented very well at this forum because we contribute professionally to all discussions.

“Israeli positions and inputs are both respected and even appreciated. When we make a contribution we do it based on experience and input,” she said.

People stay in the room out of respect for the forum, she said.